Tag Archive | Ferguson

Words Matter.

MLK1“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last week, we all witnessed the horrific slaughter of five American heroes on the streets of Dallas, TX. When Micah Johnson opened fire on police at a protest on July 7, it became the deadliest day for American police since September 11, 2001.
Yet, in spite of the horror of an “active shooter” environment, witnesses testified to the fact that the heroes of the Dallas police ran toward  the gunfire when the shooting started. Blue Line
In the end, Officers Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson, Sgt. Michael Smith, and Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens were killed, seven other officers were wounded, as well as two bystanders. Ironically, these policemen were at the protest to protect protestors who were, in essence, protesting THEM.

Now, I want to start off by making a bold statement that some may or may not agree with…

America is NOT a racist nation.

IMG_1904Does some racism exist in our nation? Sadly, yes. However, to call America racist because of the actions of a minority of its citizens is simply wrong… misleading at best. It appears that when you are a politician, calling someone “racist” is far easier than logically explaining your position, or why you may disagree with someone. In my opinion, the misuse of the word “racist” is, in many cases, racist in and of itself. It is a word with significant meaning that is bandied about far too often and far too carelessly.

Statistics speak volumes. Most of what we see in the media, in polls and news stories, is based on statistical information. With that being said, let me share a few stats with you…

There are approximately 765,000 law enforcement officers in the United States who carry “arrest power” (the authority to arrest an individual). All total, there are over 1.1 million people who work in some capacity of law enforcement. An October 2015 article in The Washington Post confirmed the following…

… “Only a small number of the shootings — roughly 5 percent — occurred under the kind of circumstances that raise doubt and draw public outcry, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The vast majority of individuals shot and killed by police officers were…armed with guns and killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making other direct threats.”

… “Of the 800 people killed by police this year, almost half have been white, a quarter have been black and one-sixth have been Hispanic.”

Now, statistically speaking, what one can surmise from this article is that…

  • Out of 765,000 officers, only 800 (total) have been involved in a fatal confrontation.
  • According to this statistic, .1% of police were involved in a shooting the year this article was written (2015).
  • Of the 800 people killed, the majority were white, and only a quarter were black.
  • Based on these approximations, and assuming that EVERY killing was unjustified (which we are not, except for the purpose of this example), that leaves approximately .03% of all police officers as being involved in the killing of African-Americans.

And please remember, these statistics come from The Washington Post, not what many would consider a “right-wing news outlet”.

Let’s look at another statistic…

According to research done around 1999 by Capitol Hill Blue, an online publication that covers federal politics, after researching public records, newspaper articles, civil court transcripts, and criminal records, CHB uncovered the following:

  •  29 members of Congress had been accused of spousal abuse.
  •  7 had been arrested for fraud.
  • 19 had been accused of writing bad checks.
  • 117 had bankrupted at least two businesses.
  • 3 had been arrested for assault.
  • 71 had credit reports so bad they couldn’t qualify for a credit card.
  • 14 had been arrested on drug-related charges.
  • 8 had been arrested for shoplifting.
  • 21 were current defendants in lawsuits.
  • In one year (1998), 84 were stopped for drunk driving, but released after they claimed Congressional immunity.

There are no more than 435 members of Congress, and 100 members of the Senate. So, assuming no person has been guilty of more than one of the charges listed…

  • Out of 535 members of the two houses of Congress, 164 have been accused of crimes… 31%.
  • In one year, 16% were stopped for drunk driving.
  • 5% are accused of spousal abuse.
  • 3% were arrested on drug charges.

The point I am making is that, while ANY loss of life is tragic, a little perspective would be in order before we start making reckless generalizations. Saying that police are a bunch of “racist thugs just out to kill blacks” because of a few questionable incidents is as irresponsible as saying that all politicians are “drunks, wife-beaters, and drug addicts” because of the actions of a few. Honestly, statistically speaking, you would have more evidence to support those claims than saying “all cops are racist killers”.

Many in our current leadership are trying to divide our nation along racial, gender, and other socio-economic lines. With the recent shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rogue, people in positions of authority began making accusations of racism before hardly any of the facts were in. Such rhetoric, although common during election years, is not at all constructive, and only succeeds to divide us further. When those in authority speak irresponsibly, it only serves to feed and fuel the misguided passions of those who would use such words as justification for acts of evil and hatred.

We hear the word integration a lot. This word comes from the Latin word integrare which means to make whole. By definition, it takes all parts coming together to comprise a whole. In America, we have always found our strength in our coming together. There is undeniable power in unity. The power of unity is a Scriptural principle…

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

In Matthew 18:19-20, Jesus promised that when we come together in unity in His name, He would show up…

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

In spite of the hate and division we have seen, I have seen glimpses that have given me hope for our hurting nation. A popular picture being circulated on social media in recent days depicts a group of African-American men standing in solidarity with, and protecting, the police force on the streets of Baltimore. Images such as these should be plastered all over the news. Yet all too often, the media focuses on every negative story as it relates to the police. When the de facto bias of news outlets becomes one of anti-authority fear-mongering and hatred, it is no wonder that the citizens of our nation become cynical, skeptical, and suspicious of anyone wearing a police uniform. Yes, I will freely admit that there are “bad cops”. There are officers who have made regrettable mistakes that have cost lives. However, I refuse to take what is a vast majority of these brave, dedicated, and sacrificial public servants and lump them into a category of corruption and abuse of power exhibited by a microscopic minority.

Last week, in the aftermath of the death of Alton Sterling, several anti-police protests took place in Baton Rogue. According to reports, these protests were, for the most part, peaceful. It was not until out-of-town agitators arrived that the protests turned violent, with dozens of arrests taking place. We have seen this over and again in places like Ferguson, MO, and Baltimore, MD. But for those who would try to turn a horrible tragedy into an opportunity and excuse for lawlessness, I would echo the warning that the Apostle Paul issued in Romans 13…

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. ~ Romans 13:1-4

So what do we do now? Where do we go from here?

Well, a good starting point would be to take these words of advice, promise, and warning from the prophet Isaiah…


“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;

Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.”

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. ~ Isaiah 1:16-20

All Lives MatterWords matter.

We can choose to make those words of healing, restoration, unity, and life.

Or…

We can make those words drip with hatred, division, and death.

The choice is ours… all of ours.

Blessings,
Pastor Ron

#CharlestonStrong

Emanuel AME2

A week ago, on the evening of June 17, Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — one of the oldest AME churches in the nation — with the alleged intention of starting a race war. Hiding a gun in his backpack, he sat and talked with parishioners during their mid-week Bible study. Approximately an hour into the study, Roof pulled out his gun, and began firing. When he left the building, 8 people were dead, with one critically injured who later died at the hospital.

Within hours of the shooting, reports began to fill the airways and internet of the tragic events at “Mother Emanuel“. With 9 people dead and the subject at large, tensions were high as people already began to assume that the shooting was racially motivated. The next day, Dylann Roof was apprehended in Shelby, North Carolina — some 245 miles away. He was returned to Charleston where he was promptly charged with the murders. As news crews and TV personalities descended upon Charleston, and images of Ferguson and Baltimore still vivid in the minds of people across the nation, many on the outside of the situation wondered if this tragedy would spark yet more civil and racial unrest.

The answer came on June 19 when, in his bond hearing, Roof was addressed by the people he had deeply wounded — the people of Emanuel AME and the families of the victims. They spoke of the hurt and pain he had caused in their lives — of the wounds born of his act of hatred. Yet, in spite of the pain in their hearts and voices, they had an overwhelming message for Dylann Roof…

“We forgive you.”

In the following days, as reporters broadcast from outside of the church, what they experienced was a wounded community coming together to worship and heal.

As the “usual suspects” of racial division and disunity began to sing their familiar song of prejudice and fear, citizens of the Charleston area joined hands and hearts across racial divides and came together over the next few days in churches throughout Charleston, including the following Sunday at Emanuel AME, where Reverend Norvel Goff had a message for the world…

“A lot of folk expected us to do something strange, and break out in a riot.
Well, they just don’t know us.
They just don’t know us because we are a people of faith. And we believe that when we put our voices and heads together, working for a common good, there is NOTHING we can not accomplish together in the name of Jesus!”

As politicians and activists began attempting to re-invigorate the “anti-gun” message, the message coming from inside the walls of Emanuel AME Church was one of love, forgiveness, and faith. It was also a message of warfare against the REAL enemy…

“… For those of us that are here this morning, I want you to know that  because the doors of ‘Mother Emanuel’ are open on THIS Sunday, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth that no weapon formed against us shall prosper… Some wanted to divide the race — black and white and brown — but no weapon formed against us shall prosper!” ~ Rev. Norvel Goff

There will always be people of every color in America. Because of our differences, and because we live in a fallen world, there will always be INDIVIDUALS — like Dylann Roof — who have a heart filled with racial hatred. However, I do not believe that America is a racist country. In a country with a population of over 300 million, you cannot ascribe to an entire population or people-group the actions or attitudes of an individual or minority. This is not the America of the 1960’s. It is time that all of us — red, yellow, black, and white — take a stand against the voices of fear and division that would try to use these types of tragic events for nefarious and self-serving purposes. It is time for we, as a united people, to stand up and say with one voice…

“No more!”

It is time that we, the church, follow the example of Jesus in heated and uncomfortable deed, and not just in air-conditioned and comfortable word. For the people of Emanuel AME to stand there, two days after such a tragic event, look into the face of the twisted, hate-filled heart that took away the lives of their beloved family members and friends, and say, “We forgive you” — It put the love of Jesus in full color, front-row view for the entire world to see. While those with no understanding of such love asked the question, “Why did God allow this to happen?”, Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of slain Pastor Daniel Simmons, summed it up in an incredible way on Fox New’s Hannity program…

“God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”

What we have witnessed in the people of Emanuel AME is the example of Jesus…

  • In the shadow of His inevitable death, He shared a message that said…

“… Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and PERSECUTE you.” ~ Matthew 5:44

  • In the agony of His own undeserved death, He reached out to a thief dying next to Him and assured him…

“… Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43

  • As He hung between Heaven and Earth, Jesus pleaded for forgiveness for the very people who had put Him on the cross…

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” ~Luke 23:34

It is an example that the worldly mind will never understand.

Forgiveness silences the critics.

Forgiveness takes the ammunition away from the agitator.

Forgiveness leaves the voices of hatred and assumed offense in stunned silence.

In the aftermath of the events in Ferguson and Baltimore, protesters and politicians were front and center in the media for weeks. In the case of the acquitted officer in Ferguson, although he was proven to be innocent, the false narrative of the tragic event was still being advanced by people with no regard for the truth.

But in Charleston, forgiveness took the teeth out of the story.

Anger never got the front page.

The root of bitterness never found fertile soil to grow.

The forces of hatred and racism never got enough traction to have to be reckoned with.

At the end of the day, Jesus showed up in the hearts, faces, voices, and actions of a group of hurting people who understood love and forgiveness are stronger than hate.

And to those who are trying to keep the story alive by focusing on some of the fringe issues like the Confederate flag or more gun control — please — let’s keep the story where it belongs, for now…

On the lives of the “Emanuel 9”.

If we do that, we might find the message of healing and forgiveness so absent in our culture today.

The message of what it means — REALLY means — to love like Jesus.

For THAT is the message a hurting world needs to hear.

Putting Things Into Perspective: #Baltimore

Flag half-mastOver the last couple of years, we have seen a rise in acts of rioting and rebellion in the name of “social justice”.

We hear the cries of “police brutality”.

We are barraged with uneven media coverage and biased commentary.

We see the acts of “civil disobedience” perpetrated in “honor” of people like Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner.

We witness brave first-responders being maligned, attacked, and assaulted for simply doing their jobs.

You get the picture. You’ve seen the stories. But before I go on, let’s put this into perspective…

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 318,857,056 people living in the United States as of 2014.
  • According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there are approximately 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States.
  • According to FBI statistics for 2013, law enforcement made an estimated 11,302,102 arrests (including 480,360 for violent crimes and 1,559,284 for property crimes). The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations (estimated at 1,501,043), larceny-theft (estimated at 1,231,580), and driving under the influence (estimated at 1,166,824).
  • Some other 2013 statistics from the FBI include:
    • An estimated 14,196 murders.
    • Approximately 724,149 aggravated assaults.
    • An estimated 79,770 reported rapes.
    • Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.5 billion in property losses.
    • About 699,594 motor vehicles were reported stolen.

I cited these statistics, in part, to call for a little perspective. With over 300 million people in our nation, and almost 1 million law enforcement personnel, while any loss of life is tragic, a response of chaos on the scale we have seen is far out of proportion. Now, before anyone says that these statistics do not justify bad behavior on the part of law enforcement, let me just say that you are exactly right. When those in authority abuse their power, they should be held to account, and dealt with appropriately in a just and fair way. Those individuals deserve the same due-process that every American citizen accused of a crime is afforded by law. But to assume all policemen are bad because of a handful of questionable incidents is unfair to the nearly 1 million officers serving today.

Think about this…

There are approximately 1,696 players in the NFL, with an average salary of $1.9 million (2010-2011). During the off-season of 2013 (February to June), 27 players were arrested for a variety of crimes including child abuse, assault, drug possession, DUI, and murder.

So with a rate of less than 2% of players being arrested for questionable behavior, should we demand a ban on pro football in America? Should there be rioting in the streets because one of America’s favorite pasttimes and institutions has been tainted by “the criminal element”?

In the three high-profile police cases I mentioned, let’s assume (for the sake of argument) there were 20 police officers involved. That is 20 out of 900,000… or .002%.

If 2% of all law enforcement in our nation were “bad”, that would be around 18,000 “crooked” officers.

When it comes to police violence, the rule seems to be “guilty until proven innocent”, with a free-pass given to anyone who wants to riot in the meantime. Honestly, I fail to see what destroying cars, assaulting individuals, looting and burning businesses, and laying waste to American communities has to do with social justice.

Growing up in the South during the ’50’s and ’60’s, I am familiar with the lasting impression and power of peaceful protests. Back then, it was about taking a stand for something other than a sound-bite or false narrative. People peacefully and courageously stood their ground, and didn’t resort to looting and vandalism while hiding behind masks and bandanas. Protesting was about seeing real change come to an unjust social landscape that included legalized racism and segregation. It was about brave men and women standing up in the face of violence with non-violence.

But how can we accomplish this today? How can we stop the kind of violence and chaos we have witnessed in places like Baltimore and Ferguson?

  • Parents can start being parents again. By now, most of us have seen the video of Toya Graham, the mother who pulled her son out of a crowd of rioters in Baltimore. While some may criticize her methods, no one can fault her motivation. She did not want her child to end up as another statistic — she wants better for her only son than the life of a street thug and criminal. It’s time for more parents to stop trying to be buddies with their kids and start being the loving voice of wisdom, experience, and (if necessary) correction that their children need. The Bible says…

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. ~ Proverbs 22:6

  Parents, your children have plenty of friends, but only two parents. As I heard someone say, regarding the riots… “Send the police home, and just put a bunch of angry moms out there on the streets. They’ll get things straightened up!”

  • We must have a culture of accountability. While the focus in these incidents is centered on the police — and in some cases justifiably so — we must also demand accountability from media outlets and elected officials. Sensationalizing the news, making offhand comments based on conjecture and hearsay, and pronouncing judgement before all of the facts are in is irresponsible at best, and in most cases, serves to throw gasoline on the fires of racism, hatred, and distrust of police and other authority figures. In the Michael Brown case, many people from elected officials to celebrities to sports teams advanced the “hands up – don’t shoot” narrative, which turned out to be a complete fabrication. In their attempt to be first on the scene, first to report, and first with a “soundbite for the ages”, the apparent attitude of media personalities and publicity hounds flies in the face of the Apostle James who said…

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~ James 1:19-20

  Advancing a false narrative in an age of technology such as we have is beyond irresponsible and dangerous. Those who do such things should be held to account for their actions and words.

  • Get back to the Bible. We MUST return to the principles that our country was founded on — the principles and truths of the Word of God. The prevailing thought in many circles today (political circles, for one) is that people can believe what they want to believe, and there are no absolutes. There is little in society today that is as wrong, as dangerous, or as insane as that belief. We cannot pick and choose our morality, or cherry-pick what principles in the Bible are “relevant”, and what ideas are outdated. If the Bible is irrelevant and there are no absolutes, what makes it wrong for a person to walk into a school and start shooting children? If the measure of right and wrong is a person’s personal belief system, then what made it wrong for Hitler to kills 6 million Jews because his “belief” was that the world would be better off without them?

  In our nation today, we have laws on the book that state that, if a person kills a pregnant woman, and her unborn baby dies as well, that person can be charged with two murders. Yet, an unborn baby can be killed by the cruel act of abortion, and that is deemed by society as “acceptable’. What kind of “crazy” logic is that?

And more recently, we are seeing the hypocrisy of those trying to advance the LGBT agenda who are attacking Christians for standing up for their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs that same-sex marriage is wrong, and exhibiting rabid intolerance for Christians in the name of “tolerance”.

My friend… God sent Jesus into this world to die for our sins, but we must come to Him on HIS terms; by admitting our need for Him, confessing our sins for what they are, and coming to Him in repentance of our sins, and acceptance of His free gift of salvation. Until we are willing to turn to Him, as individuals and as a nation, we will continue down the slippery slope of narcissistic self-destruction.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

All Lives MatterIt’s time for sanity to take its rightful place in the public discourse, for good and honest people to speak the truth in love, stand their ground, and make a difference in all of our communities… red, yellow, black, or white. It’s time to do the right thing, one neighborhood at a time, and show the love of Jesus every step along the way.

It’s time to get God’s perspective, and follow His leading.